This one was a bit out of the ordinary for me because I can’t actually eat fish. But it was very fitting with the New Zealand festive tradition of fishing by day, staying in a cute bach by the sea by night. The fish I smoked was one that I caught myself. It was actually the first fish I’ve ever caught – and not for lack of trying all these years.
Because I’m so wildly allergic I couldn’t even touch the thing and had to rely on my Dad to clean it, scale it and cut it up for the smoker. I found the whole smoking process to be pretty crazy and we learned a few important lessons in the process. Namely do not light the smoker in a garage and when the smoker is lit and the meths is burning – do not try lift it to move it.
In terms of the taste I can’t comment directly but the gist was that we had over-smoked the top of the fish but it was perfect in the middle. The trick is to get the ratio of meths to wood chips right and we had slightly too much of both which made for a bit too much smokey flavour. Lessons learned though and the important part is the fish was eaten.
- 2 Kahawai (or other fish)
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup meths
- 1 cup wood chips
Our holiday spot was on the upper West Coast of the South Island. A beautiful place called Te Hapu. We set off to catch some kahawai and while our first spot proved unfruitful our second spot proved bountiful… for some. My brother cast his rod and boom first cast he got one. Me, I got one on my second cast. Dad, well he had a bit of trouble.
He cast and he cast and after a while he caught a fish! A baby cod that he had to throw back. So he kept casting and eventually caught something else! A seagull – not even an aquatic animal. So no fish for Dad but luckily he came in useful because he knows all about cleaning and scaling them. That shizz is gross.
When we got them back to the bach we cut them in half and Dad massaged some brown sugar and salt into the flesh. To prep the smoker we filled the metal dish half full with meths and put about a cup of manuka wood chips in the bottom of the smoker itself. After lighting the meths and placing the smoker on top, the fish was laid on top of the grill and closed it up to burn itself out.
This is where your meths to woodchips to size-of-fish ratio has to be perfect and it might take a few attempts to get right. I think it’s best to err on the side of caution though and use a little less chips and meths because you can always finish the fish on the BBQ if it doesn’t cook the whole way through. I also know there are other ways to smoke a fish without actually using a smoker so you can just do it on the stove if need be.